Laptops have revolutionized how many people live and work. It’s now possible to work from home or Starbucks or from a beach in Hawaii thanks to laptops and smart phones.
However, many of us have found our laptop use skyrocketing. We use it for business and for pleasure for many hours during the day and night. It is incredibly easy for most of us to open our laptops to do one task like check email and end up spending several hours working on projects and little tasks.
Since laptops were not created or built with ergonomics in mind and go agaisnt ergonomic design in many ways this can lead to problems in the body like pain and extended use injuries.
The Problem With Extended Laptop Use
Often when we start using our laptops it is with the intention to just be on it for a few minutes. A few minutes turns into more which turns into hours spent on a laptop working.
Chances are when you sat down it wasn’t at a properly calibrated ergonomic workstation. Instead you are probably like most laptop users – perched awkwardly on a chair with your overheating laptop balanced on your knees, with a pain starting to grow in your neck and wrists because of awkward positioning.
The way you use your laptop on a daily basis could be causing you long-term harm when it’s used in this way.
Tips for Using Your Laptop Ergonomically
There are many things you can do to improve your laptop use and keep it from causing discomfort and other problems. The following tips will help you use your laptop ergonomically.
- Sit up. Do not try using a laptop while you are laying down as it is just asking for problematic positioning. Get a small pillow for lower back support if you need it and sit up while working on your laptop.
- Don’t slouch. It’s very easy to have bad posture while working on a laptop, especially if it is positioned on your knees while you are typing. Stop the slouching and move to a desk if needed.
- Work from a desk. Just because it is called a laptop doesn’t mean you have to work on your lap. Take your laptop to a desk and use an external mouse and keyboard to provide better ergonomics. As you can see in the photo below, perching your laptop on your knees from a couch can be a bad position for hours of use!
- Keep it level. While working on a laptop keep your screen at eye level. If you are hunching over or straining to see then the screen is probably too low for use.
- Sit close enough. Laptop users sometimes don’t sit close enough to the screen and end up reaching to use the laptop. This strains your body and causes discomfort. Instead, pull your seat closer to the table so you don’t have to reach.
- Make the font bigger. If you are having trouble seeing the words on your laptop screen you could be causing digital eye strain or hurting your body by hunching over to see.Increase the font and screen size so you don’t have to squint or get too close.
Pay Attention To Laptop Posture
Cornell University Ergonomics shares more tips for ergonomic laptop use with particular focus on your posture when using a laptop. They have distinguished between users who use their laptop just occasionally and may make sacrifices and those who use their laptop full time and need to pay more attention to their setup.
Below are the tips from Cornell University for both occasional and full time laptop users:
- Occasional Users – because the neck/head position is determined by the actions of large muscles, you are better off sacrificing neck posture rather than wrist posture. For occasional use:
- find a chair that is comfortable and that you can sit back in
- positioning your laptop in your lap for the most neutral wrist posture that you can achieve
- angling the laptop screen so that you can see this with the least amount of neck deviation
- Full-time Users – if you use your laptop at work as your main computer you should:
- position this on your desk/work surface in front of you so that you can see the screen without bending your neck. This may require that you elevate the laptop off the desk surface using a stable support surface, such as a computer monitor pedestal
- use a separate keyboard and mouse. You should be able to connect a keyboard and mouse directly to the back of the laptop or to a docking station
- use the keyboard on a negative-tilt keyboard tray to ensure a wrist neutral posture
- use the mouse on an adjustable position mouse platform
- follow the postural guidelines for working at a computer workstation
Those are just a few quick tips to keep in mind when you are using your laptop and minding the proper posture.
Remember that using your laptop ergonomically will help you in the long run as you will be saving yourself from strain and discomfort. You don’t want to suffer from pain that could have prevented by the way you use your laptop.